Friday, March 30, 2012

Separation Anxiety

Faithful readers may recall that a few months ago, our good friend Jane called us out of the blue to announce she was divorcing her childhood sweetheart and husband. The news shocked everyone, especially since for years, we’d held Jane and Peter up as the absolute ideal of what a happy marriage and relationship should look like.
            Saffy was so shaken by the news that she wondered why she was bothering to date in the first place if, after all that hard work dating to find the guy you want to marry, years down the track, you end up getting divorced.
            As she put it with her usual penetrating insight, “I might as well take up a cooking class, it would be so much more useful!”
            Her best friend Sharyn added, “Yah, lor. We, hor, we not like Madonna. Can get die-vorce today and straight away get new boyfriend tomorrow!”
            “You know who I feel sorry for,” Amanda said, “the kids!”
            Saffy blinked. “Madonna’s kids? Why…”
            “Peter and Jane’s kids!” Amanda snapped. “Why would I care about Madonna’s kids?”
            As Saffy later said, sometimes when Amanda gets into one of her moods, you always feel as if you have to walk around on eggshells.
            A few days ago, Jane rang to say that she had a new boyfriend.
            Amanda was shocked. “How is that possible? You’ve only just separated from Peter!”
            “What’s the problem? He’s already dating.”
            “Yes, but he’s a guy. Guys are like dogs. They’ll date a door-knob if it had cleavage! Wait, is this a rebound thing?” Amanda asked, her eyes narrowing.
            “I’ve already had my rebound thing,” Jane said. “In fact, I’ve had three rebound things. This new guy is proper boyfriend material.”
            For lack of anything else to say, Amanda stabbed her cheesecake and shifted her phone to the other ear.
            “I’m a woman,” Jane added firmly. “And I have needs.”
            Jane said she jolly well wasn’t going to hang around her flat and mope, and, anyway, she and Peter had been drifting apart for years now, so there weren’t any raw emotions or baggage to deal with.
            Amanda hanged up the phone and immediately called Saffy.
“The last time I broke up with a guy,” Saffy reported, “it took me a year before I started dating again. And Jeremy and I had only dated for two years!”
“Well, they say that it takes you half the period two people were together before you can move on. So, if you are Jeremy were together two years, then one year is about right to start dating again.”
Saffy did the maths in her head. “That can’t be right. Jane and Peter were together fifteen years, so theoretically it should take them seven and a half years to get over each other. It’s not even been a year!”
 “Clearly,” Amanda said, “their relationship was over seven years ago.”
Saffy later told me that she and Amanda spent the next two hours talking about this. “Seriously, if I devoted as much time to my career as I do analyzing my friends’ relationships, I’d be vice-president of my company by now.”
What I wanted to know was how, in the space of a few months, Jane had managed to have three rebound flings and was now embarking on a serious relationship. “I mean, it takes you and Amanda, on average, five years to find a boyfriend!”
“We have standards,” Saffy said, stiffly, her tone somehow implying that Jane has less than gold medal morals.
Sharyn sent me a private message on Facebook saying that it was a good thing the girls were currently dating successfully, Saffy with Bradley, and Amanda with her insectile on-again, off-again boyfriend The Cockroach. “Can u imagine if dey still single and Jane got so many bf so soon after her divorce? Wah!”
I’ll never really understand the mysterious dynamics of female relationships. If Jane had been a guy, there would have been high fives all round the locker room that he’d gotten back on his horse so soon after his separation. “You’re the man! Grab a beer?”
But a newly divorced woman has to deal not just with her painful separation, but she must also do it in a way that doesn’t add to her girlfriends’ insecurities about their relationships.
“Yah, boy,” Sharyn said later when she caught up with me for coffee. “Good thing they got boyfriend, udderwise, chiam ah. It’s like Kim Kardashian so jealous when her sister Kourtney got boyfriend and baby and Khlo-ee also got big black boyfriend, so she hurry hurry marry that Kris. And now, look, die-vorce!”
Sharyn also says someone should make a reality TV about the flat I share with Saffy and Amanda. “Sure win, one!”

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Past Tense

In the ongoing saga of the single woman, an ex-boyfriend is a particularly tricky thing.
If he was the Love of Your Life, just thinking about him will bring up all kinds of emotions you would rather have safely buried away. Like regret. Which should always be buried in a thick concrete case and then blasted into deep space inside another concrete case.
Regret is the worst kind of emotion to feel about anyone, let alone someone whom you’re pretty sure might have been The One. It’s that sneaking suspicion that you were so close to true happiness, that you had the Birkin Bag of Marital Bliss within your grasp. Only to lose it because of your insecurity, your mother, your unresolved father issues, or your equally sure knowledge that you could do better.
And before you know it, you find yourself spending your days walking around with a cheap Gucci knock-off from Bangkok.
But if, instead, he was the Mistake of Your Life, if he was the one who’s turned you into this emotionally bruised, messy pulp, riddled with relationship baggage – if he was the reason you let The One go in the first place…Well, this brings us right back to regret.
See? Ex-boyfriend. Tricky.
            A few days ago, the Cockroach walked back into Amanda’s life. Leave it to Saffy to add, “And by ‘Amanda’s life’, you mean, of course, our life! Seriously, what is wrong with her?”
            For years, the Cockroach – so called on account of his close physical and facial resemblance to the insect, and the fact that we only ever see him at night – has had a rollercoaster on-again, off-again relationship with Amanda. One minute, they’re happy as two doves in a Hallmark card, the next they’re at each other’s throats with a lot of door-slamming, tears and late night ice-cream sob fests. And faster than you can say ‘Kim Kardashian’, they’re back together again.
            Saffy says the whole thing is exhausting her. “Not to mention aging! I’m sure these wrinkles between my eyes are caused by all this drama! I need to get Botox. Come with me?”
            The recent split has lasted a year which, in itself, is a new record, the previous being six months. During that time, Amanda looked happier and lost the haunted look that would suddenly creep up on her whenever she found herself watching old Oprah re-runs.
            And then one day, while shopping at Prada, she stepped out of the change-room and ran into the Cockroach.
            “What was he doing at Prada? Isn’t his style more G-2000?” Saffy asked, her voice loaded with cheap innuendo.
            “He was buying a wallet for his brother-in-law’s birthday.”
            Saffy’s eyes narrowed. “You spoke to him?”
            “Well,” Amanda shifted in her chair. “Kind of. Maybe. Why?”
            “Because I’m judging you.”
            “It was only a coffee!”
            Saffy’s bosom inflated with outrage. “You had coffee with him? Are you mad?!”
            “He’s very buff now, he’s been going to the gym!” Amanda said, desperately trying to change the subject.
            “Who cares?” Saffy snapped. “That man is toxic! He cheated on you. And he didn’t even buy you Cartier diamonds to say he was sorry! You spent months crying over him. And please tell me that he’s not still living at home with his parents!”
            “Yes, why?” Amanda said cautiously.
            As Saffy later said to me, and not for the first time, it’s a travesty that Harvard ever gave Amanda a law degree. “She really does give that university such a bad rep! She could have any man she wants. This town is now crawling with cute French bankers, and she’s still giving that low down scum sucking mother loving fat pig the time of day?”
            “Ay, he very good looking now, you know,” Sharyn said, happily adding fuel to fire. “I saw him the udder day at G-2000. Wah, very han-sum!”
            “I swear, if she gets back with him, I will be very upset! Because I am not going through another one of their break-ups again!”
            Meanwhile, Amanda thinks that this time, it’s going to work. “He’s changed!” she told me, her eyes shining. “We’ve just always had this connection. Even during the worst of our fights, I somehow always knew he was an important part of my life.”
            I told her she sounded just like Kim Kardashian before her wedding. “I’m not judging you,” I said. “I’m just saying. That’s who you sound like.”
            Saffy says that at least Kim Kardashian got a big fat diamond ring and an obscene amount of money out of all that drama. “What do we get? Another guy who leaves the toilet seat up! I’m so writing to Harvard to complain about Amanda!”

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Clean Slate

Well, it’s official: Shaking hands is bad for your health.
            The British Olympic Association’s chief medical officer said so. Infections are spread by shaking hands, he said, adding that if we are Olympic athletes, we could lose out on a medal by catching even a mild disease.
            It was all Saffy could do not to throw up as she read the article on her iPad. “It says here that dirty hands can transmit infections such as noroviruses and salmonella that cause diarrhoea and vomiting, rhinoviruses that can give you a cold, as well as viruses that cause flu and chickenpox!”
Saffy looked up, her eyes slightly crossed. “Oh my God, you can get chickenpox just by shaking someone’s hands? I feel sick.”
She immediately posted the article onto Facebook and for the rest of the day, would post extracts onto the walls of random friends.
“Diseases that spread rapidly and can be fatal, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile, can also lurk on hands!” she said on Karen’s wall.
“The bugs can stay on them for hours and be transferred to surfaces and door handles for other people to share!” she posted on Sharyn’s wall.
Sharyn picked up her phone to call Saffy. “Ay, you don’t be so cheem on Facebook, can or not? I just wasted 15 minutes looking up the dictionary, you know.”
“I hope you’re not using someone else’s phone right now, Sharyn,” Saffy said darkly. “Did you read the rest of the article? It says that one in six handphones is contaminated by faecal bugs!”
Of course, reading stupid articles like this is a bit like listening to a Kylie Minogue song: You just can’t get it out of your head. For days afterwards, everywhere I looked was a festering hotbed of potentially fatal germs just waiting to explode and overwhelm my weakly defended immune system.
Door handles have become Public Enemy No. 1. As have lift buttons and toilet flushes.
Which reminds me of a friend I used to have in my old office. Wen-ling was a medically diagnosed hypochondriac. Which means that whilst the rest of us say we’re hypochondriacs, she was officially a hypochondriac. In a strange way, this made her normal. It’s like someone who’s been diagnosed with arthritis is considered more normal that someone, like my mother, who pretends to have it only when confronted with a mop or an iron.
Anyway, Wen-ling arrived at the office each morning and whilst the other lawyers sat down to check their emails or make coffee, she would take out her wallet, empty all the notes and coins onto a sheet of plastic and proceed to wipe everything down with a cloth and liberal spritzes of lavender and orange scented Dettol.
Every four hours, she would hose down her computer keyboard with antibacterial gel. “Keyboards are disgusting,” she once told me calmly as I sat in her office and watched her diligently scrub at the ‘A’ key.
Everyone thought Wen-ling was a few files short of a full cabinet, but I thought she was the most normal person I’d ever met.
“That woman is weird. I don’t know why you’re friends with her. You need germs to build up your immunity!” Amanda once snuffled as she snuggled deeper beneath her blankets and shivered from stomach flu.
Of course, she passed the bug to Saffy and me because a day later, all three of us were building up our communal immunity by throwing up into the same toilet bowl every thirty minutes. Saffy said that if she wasn’t so weak from a fever and dehydration, she’d kill Amanda. “I had a hot date with Bradley tonight!” she gasped.
And according to the article we just read, when researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine swabbed the hands of 308 public transport commuters in the UK, between four and 19% were contaminated with faecal bacteria.
“But why don’t people wash their hands?” Saffy cried. “What is wrong with this world?
“Apparently, you’ve got to wash for the length of time it takes to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice before you’re really done,” I said.
It all makes me think that it’s just not safe to step out the front door at all. If the simple friendly act of shaking hands can make you sick, or lose out on an Olympic medal, what is the point?
Saffy says that the Japanese and the Thais have had it right all along. “They just bow and smile. That’s what I’m doing from now on. I’ll just bow and never have to touch anyone!”
“Poor Blad-ley!” Sharyn said. 

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

To Dye For

A few mornings ago, I woke up to the sound of low moaning and you could just tell it wasn’t the good kind.
There was something a little desperate about this sound – a single note that crept up on you, clicked shut on the groove of your auditory canal and held on. It vibrated right through the body – again, not in a good way – and after a while, all I could think of was that creepy girl in the white dressing gown with the long hair in ‘The Ring’.
Cautiously, I poked my head out of my bedroom and nearly screamed like a girl when I saw Amanda’s head also sticking out from around her door.
“What is that?” she hissed, eyes wild.
“It’s coming from the bathroom!”
Amanda inched cautiously out from behind the door and padded softly towards the bathroom. She put her ear to the door.
“Saffy?” she whispered.
The bathroom door swung wide open. Saffy screamed. Amanda screamed. I slammed my door shut and squeezed tightly on my bladder.
“What are you doing standing right outside the bathroom!” Saffy yelled. “Are you trying to kill me?”
“Why are you moaning like that? Do you realise how creepy it is? What is the matter with you!”
“I’m allowed to moan! I’m getting old! And that’s what old people do. They moan!”
“I just found two white hairs on my head!”
There was a pause and I could literally feel Amanda gather herself.
“Really? Show me! Oooh, yeah, there they are!”
“Pull them out! Pull them out! They’re freaking me out! Pull them out, Amanda, right…owww! Oh my God!”
“You told me to pull them out!”
“Well, not at the same time! And you didn’t give me any warning. God, am I bleeding?”
By the time everyone had calmed down a little over a cup of hot peppermint tea, I was exhausted and it wasn’t even 8am.
“Why can’t we just have a nice relaxing weekend without any drama?” I whined.
“What am I going to do?” Saffy sniffed into her tea. “White hair. It’s the beginning of the end! Bradley is going to leave me for a younger woman, you just wait and see.”
“Well, look on the bright side,” Amanda said, helping herself to a croissant. “At least, you’re not getting white hair down there!”
Saffy looked up from her tea and frowned, her mind reorientating its physiological compass. Then her eyes widened.
“Oh. My. God,” she gasped and disappeared into the bathroom.
I stared hard at Amanda. She shrugged. “As if you weren’t thinking it too.”
The next day, Saffy came home with a plastic bag filled with home hair colouring packs. “I couldn’t decide which shade of brown I want to be, so I got them all. This had better work.”
An hour later, she’d decided on Deep Mahogany (“It sounds like a dining table!”). Inside the box were a pair of plastic gloves, pre-treatment serum, colour tube and a milky bottle. Saffy unfolded the instruction sheet, pursed her lips as she read silently, eyes flicking from one tube to the other.
“That doesn’t look too hard,” she said finally as she snapped on the gloves and I headed out the door. After all these years, I’m like a dog before a tsunami hits: I can sense disaster a mile away.
An hour later, Amanda came home to find Saffy sobbing in the bathroom. It was a shattered mess with tubes and bottles everywhere, their contents leaking onto every surface. Saffy emerged from a cloud of ammonia, her long streaky hair dripping dark brown liquid onto the sides of her face, clothes and floor. She looked like Carrie at her prom. After she’d killed everyone.
Amanda gasped, her eyes watering from the fumes. “What have you done?”
Between choking gasps, Saffy said that it had all started well enough. She opened one tube and mixed it with another, happily shaking the bottle until she suddenly realised that she’d mixed the wrong solutions together. She panicked and then tried to add the right tube, but then the bottle overheated and exploded.
“And so I tried just wing it and stick it all on my hair, but it was all so liquidy, it ran everywhere and now I can’t get the stain out of my face and it’s all over my neck and I look like I have third degree radiation burns and…” Saffy burst into fresh tears.
Right now, we’re at the dermatologist waiting to see if we can get the colour off Saffy’s face, currently hidden under a big hat.
“We need to sue!” Saffy just hissed to Amanda. “Imagine if I’d tried dying down there!”
Clearly, I didn’t run far enough.